Yoga for dummies

I had such a good yoga class the other night.  I’m really excited about doing this, and it highlights so clearly what I can do, what my strengths are – and how strong I actually am is a constant surprise, given the circumstances.  Of course, it also highlights my many weaknesses and what I need to work on … it is superb rehab therapy.

Yoga isn’t just about flipping yourself around into weird poses and showing off how flexible you are, which is what you might think from many teachers and classes around the place.  These are bad teachers and bad classes – believe me, I know what I’m talking about.  Yoga is about strength and stamina, maintaining a pose takes incredible physical control ; it also takes mental concentration, awareness and determination.  Good stuff.

Finding a good teacher is the hardest part, really.  Many teachers I’ve come across have been the airy-fairy new-agey type who’ve been all about the flipping into impossible positions, and haven’t focused on the need for that strength and body awareness.  The teacher who takes my class is wonderful, he is so very very good it’s quite miraculous! [yes I know I’m gushing but it is necessary]  He has an excellent understanding of joint instability and floppy wobbly joints like mine.  He can see my weaknesses and where I need to build strength and stamina; he can also see my strengths and makes me feel good about those, so I don’t feel like a total loser when I fall over halfway through a warrior pose … [that’s a standing pose and my feet, ankles, knees and hips just will not cooperate and instead flop about at random]

The teacher, M, understands how hard it is for me, and how I have to work much harder than “normal” people to maintain a  pose because I’m trying to control loose joints.  So in fact I’m stronger than most people in the class because I’m having to work twice as hard to compensate.  That’s kinda cool, and nice, and gives me a good feeling; exceedingly unusual for me to have any positive feelings relating to physical activity!  Years of being the klutzy clumsy unco one has left it’s mark …

Conversely, M will not let me over-stretch.  It’s easy for me to flip into a pose, particularly the scrunched up lying or sitting poses where you end up lying on your back with your feet tucked up behind your head.  But M will come by and tell me to pull back and correct my position.  This gives me great confidence in him as it means I can trust him as well as or better than myself what I should and should not be doing.  Over-stretching for me is exceedingly dangerous as I can dislocate or sublux [partial dislocation] hips and shoulders as easy as pie.  Not much fun, that.

Aside from the physical side of things, the building of excellent core strength and some serious muscle [I’m stronger already and my calves are getting the most intense work-out in their life] there is the mental component.   You can take what you like away from yoga, you can be as airy-fairy as you like, or as pragmatic, either way it is excellent exercise for the mind.  The development of mind-body awareness, intense concentration, breathing and freeing the mind of distraction and stress are neat side-effects of a good practice, and I’ve found those elements in yoga class most useful.

I must acknowledge and send big thank-you’s to the beautiful Ms Julia of All About The Pretty, who is a bit of a yoga superstar as well as a beauty junkie [and has the best philosophy of life of anyone I’ve read on the internets].  She inspired me to get back into yoga, and I am just loving it, even more than I love drooling over eye shadows and moisturisers.  It’s certainly more beneficial; well, as beneficial as moisturiser and sunscreen, the eye shadows are just icing on the cake. 

So yeah; yoga, for this loose-jointed wobbly dummy, is turning out to be fantastic for building up my strength and stamina [also flexibility, but I don’t exactly have a problem with that], and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting rehab therapy or “normal” folks wanting a really good workout – believe me, if you do it right, you sweat!  Just remember:  Keep breathing! 

[I have a tendency to hold my breath when I’m concentrating on a pose, then I wonder when I start turning blue … ]

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  • Katie  On Friday 17 August 2007 at 9:40 am

    I’ve always wanted to try yoga, I’m not sure whether it’s because I truly want to, or just because it’s the “in” thing to do, like pilates. I’ve never gotten around to it – maybe I should!

    I wanted to say thankyou for your comment about cat harnesses. I’ve taken your advice and let Puddy roam about inside with just the harness bit on – at first she was a little drama queenish, and after a bit (after realising I wasn’t oohing and ahhing with pity) she forgot about it and acted normal.

    So I clipped the leash on and took her outside. She did really well. I distracted her with toys and things to chase, and the only difference in her behaviour was she was more reluctant to move great lengths, and she sat down a fair bit. Now she’s back inside and we’ll try again tomorrow with the leash for a little longer.

    I think she knows that it’s the only way she’s getting outside, so she’s learning she just has to deal with it! Teehee!

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